We had the opportunity to get word from Kyle Frey and Tyler Conner, and we're grateful to them for it. You might have seen Kyle Frey riding at Golden Gate Fields and Tyler Conner at Penn National Race Course.
We wanted to know how jockeys are coping with the quarantine regulations.
It is conceivable that it may be easy for some and a tremendous burden for others. Perhaps it even reaches a point of foregoing graded races to avoid the travel, quarantine, and investment of considerable time in between. Or maybe it doesn't. So we asked Kyle and Tyler.
Tyler Conner: We all hate the face masks but we all do what we have too. It's not too bad in the winter because we are wearing masks to stay warm anyways but when it's warm, it makes it tough to breathe. For the most part protocols have been fairly easy, not much has changed besides having to get temperature checks and having a negative test if we go out of state. Worst part of it all is not being able to ride other tracks because it limits us to making as much money as we normally would.
Kyle Frey: Well first off I cannot speak for all riders. I can only speak from my own experience and my honest opinion is that after being at Parx when they shut down with my wife and I expecting, I just feel blessed to be able to work.
When asked how quarantine policies affect their mental readiness and performance on the track, they didn't think it had much.
Tyler Conner: I don't think it has any effect on that.
Kyle Frey: For me it didn't change much. I think the mask was a bit odd and took some getting used to and I definitely miss the owners and the excitement we all get to share after a win but performance didn't change at all.
The next question was on the new riding crop rule that went into effect last October. It was not met with universal acceptance, to say the least.
There were complaints and disagreements, and it is still a burning issue to this day. We asked what were the present attitudes toward this rule?
Tyler Conner: No one likes it, not even the stewards. Most of us have adopted it pretty well but there has been a fair amount of fines given out for over usage of the whip. I personally think it's a bad rule because it's only been applied to appeal to the public that doesn't like horse racing and there isn't much common sense involved in the rules. Also our job as jockeys is to get the best result out of our horses and limiting our whip usage doesn't allow us to get full run out of some horses.
Kyle Frey: I feel like it affects the safety for the horse and rider. It slows down reaction time and ever split second counts and could be fatal for both horse and rider.
The new riding crop rule, under CHRB 1688, imposes a strict limit on the amount of times and particular circumstances a crop can be used, in both racing and in training. Its intention is to protect horses without compromising the safety of horses and riders. But is the rule succeeding or failing? Seems like the new rule makes danger almost certain.
With a whole year ahead of us, we asked — as our final question — are there any major changes jockeys are pushing for?
Tyler Conner: We'd like to have the whip rule adjusted, I think that goes for all riders across the country. At Penn we have been pushing to have a safety rail installed.
Kyle Frey: I think the guild is working on trying to get a nation wide rule for the crop that everyone can agree on to keep things fair.
We'd like to thank Tyler Conner and Kyle Frey, for getting us up to speed on the Jockey's perspective. Also much thanks to Shawn Drupp for facilitating this interview.